Seth Wenig Associated Press The hearing of Donald Trump Jr (center), eldest son of former US President Donald Trump, inaugurated Wednesday in a New York court a parade of the family clan which will continue with Eric Trump, then Donald Trump himself.
Donald Trump Jr., one of Donald Trump's two children being prosecuted with him in the civil trial for financial fraud that threatens the family real estate empire, began testifying Wednesday in Manhattan court.
The hearing of the eldest son of the former American president inaugurates a parade of the family clan which will continue with Eric Trump, then Donald Trump himself and Ivanka Trump, who however filed an appeal not to testify.
Dark blue suit, light shirt and pink tie, Donald Trump Jr, 45, confirmed, at the very beginning of his testimony on Wednesday, his role at the top of the Trump Organization which brings together a myriad of companies managing housing skyscrapers and offices, luxury hotels or golf courses around the world.
Who held the reins of the group from the entry into the White House of Donald Trump, in January 2017, asked him in substance to establish the roles of each the representative of the general prosecutor's office? “A combination of myself, my brother [Eric] and Allen Weisselberg”, the former financial director sentenced in 2022 to prison for tax fraud, responded Donald Trump Jr.
Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, both executive vice presidents of the Trump Organization, are accused like their father by the Attorney General of the State of New York, Letitia James, of having inflated assets to the tune of billions of dollars of the group in the 2010s to obtain better loans from banks and more favorable insurance conditions.
“Leave my children alone, Engoron. You are a disgrace to the judicial profession,” Donald Trump Sr. published overnight on his social network Truth Social, addressing Judge Arthur Engoron who is presiding over the proceedings.
Since the start of the trial, on October 2, the magistrate has already issued two fines of 5,000 and 10,000 dollars to Donald Trump, settled since then, for attacking his clerk.
If the agenda is not disrupted, the 77-year-old former president will be questioned on Monday, a year less a day before the presidential election of November 5, 2024, which he hopes to contest to return to the head of the United States.
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Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump are also fervent political allies of their father, an unfailing loyalty that they display on a daily basis in media and on social networks.
They should not deviate from the line adopted by the defense since the start of the trial.
The lawyers argue that valuations of the group's assets, such as Trump Tower and the 40 Wall Street building, were subjective but sincere, and that the banks did not lose a dollar by lending money to the Trump Organization.
But according to the boss of the investment bank M.M. Dillon&Co., Michiel McCarty, called to the stand on Wednesday as an expert, lending banks, like Deutsche Bank, could have decided to set rates of interest higher if they had had at their disposal a less rosy picture of Donald Trump's financial situation.
He reviewed four loans to finance projects around a golf course in Florida, two luxury hotels in Washington and Chicago, as well as 40 Wall Street, and estimated interest losses at $168 million between 2014 and 2023 . A calculation contested by the defense.
Regularly present at the hearings, Donald Trump, favorite in the polls for the Republican primaries, has transformed each of his passages in the corridors of the court into a mini-press conference and poses as the victim of a legal machination, as in the four other cases where he is criminally charged, in particular for trying to overturn the 2020 presidential election.
His presence at the hearings also indicates the importance that Donald Trump attaches to the case. While he doesn't face prison time, the trial could cause him to lose control of part of his real estate assets, in addition to a $250 million fine and a ban on managing companies in New York .
Even before the trial opened on October 2, Judge Engoron found that the public prosecutor's office presented “conclusive evidence that between 2014 and 2021, the defendants overvalued the assets” of “812 million (to) 2.2 billion dollars” depending on the year.
As a result of “repeated frauds”, he ordered the liquidation of the companies, a real legal bombshell, but his decision was suspended in appeal.
The trial focuses on other violations of financial laws and the amount of the fine.